This is an outstanding example of a virtually unaltered, small, 18th-century garden layout connected with James Stirling, the development of the profitable Leadhills mining enterprise, and possibly William Adam.
Type of Site
A small earlier 18th-century mansion house with associated formal garden layout.
Location and Setting
Scot's Mining Company House is at the southern edge of the village of Leadhills which lies on the B797 in the Lowther Hills in the southernmost area of Clydesdale district, south-west of Abington and north-east of Sanquhar. The site is c.1280-1300 ft above sea level, which is high for a cultivated garden. The surrounding landscape is open moorland with sheep grazing. The garden is largely enclosed by dense planting, but the various walks, assisted by the elevated position of the house, allow views through the trees into the surrounding countryside. From the mine manager's platform there are views to the west of the village of Leadhills, and the Lowther Hills.
The designed landscape at Scot's Mining House is well defined by a dry-stone wall. The earliest known plan is a survey by John Gill, 1849-50, showing the cultivated grounds at Leadhills. The 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25') map of 1858 shows no change in the extent of the landscape from Gill's plan. Today the boundaries remain the same, although in the intervening years lead mines and a tramway were built close to the garden boundary. As these are now defunct and the prospect from the rear of the property is now much as it was before their arrival.
Scot's Mining Company House, listed as Woodlands Hall (formerly known as Mansion House) is a classical two-storey, three-bay house, built in 1736-40. Flanking pavilions with linking bays were added, 1736-37. A pair of parallel ranges flanks the courtyard to the west. The range to the south, formerly the stables, is now roofless. The Garden is enclosed by an 18th-century rubble-built wall. The lodge was demolished but a painting by James Miller Stewart, in the possession of the owner, shows a single-storey, whitewashed, stone building with a slate roof and Gothic windows. The 19th-century Chapel is now a roofless ruin. An earth mound which is thought to be an Ice-house is situated in the south-east corner of the garden. A stone Viewing Platform with decorative setts, made for the mine manager to enable him to have views over the village of Leadhills, was built in to the bank above the village but was taken down in 2003 due to neighbours' safety concerns. There are plans to build a similar structure with lighter materials.
Drives and Approaches
There is one approach to the house from the south-west. The drive climbs a small incline which terminates at the courtyard on the west front of the house. There is a steep bank to the west which drops down to the public road. A small rose-bed in the middle of the sweep is a recent addition.
The woodland is mainly confined to the perimeter belts for the garden and was planted for protection from wind as well as for decoration. The bank on the west side of the drive is planted with sycamore and beech, with some lime nearer the house. The small groves to the east of the bowling green are planted with some elm, but mostly sycamore. The same species mix, including some ash, is planted in the garden to the east of the house. The tree planting on this site represents the only woodland in the area and therefore provides a dominant feature in the landscape of open hill and moorland.
The gardens lie around the house and are composed of terraces and grass platts linked by paths at different levels.
A small garden, enclosed by rubble walls, on the north side of the house, lies on the site of the 19th-century chapel. Steps lead down from this garden to the square lawn to the north-west of the house, referred to as the bowling green, and the mine manager's viewing platform to the west (currently taken down). A footpath around the perimeter of the bowling green offers views into a walled garden which is currently not in cultivation, at a lower level to the north. The footpath continues around the perimeter in a westerly direction. A rectangular grove of trees stands to the south of the path between another level where there is another flat area, now used as a kitchen garden. The 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25') map of 1858 shows a quartered area which would indicate its use as a kitchen garden at that time.
The relationship between the more utilitarian kitchen garden and the ornamental main terraced garden on the east side of the house has changed from time to time. The northern part of the garden appeared to be separate from the main body to the east of the house in 1858. The two levels are now linked by a path.
The main platt of grass to the east of the house is surrounded by a perimeter path, with the southern path being on the lower terrace. In the south-east corner of the garden is a mound which is encircled by a spiralling turf path. There is a belt of trees between the path and the boundary wall to the south. A broad, gravelled terrace runs along the west front of the house.
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The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
An outstanding example of a virtually unaltered, small, 18th-century garden layout connected with James Stirling, the development of the profitable Leadhills mining enterprise, and possibly William Adam.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Woodlands Hall (Scot's Mining Company House) was built as the mine manager's house for Leadhills mining settlement. It was first owned by the Hope family of Hopetoun when Leadhills came into the their possession through the marriage of Sir James Hope (1614-61) to Anne, daughter of Robert Foulis of Leadhills. The mine manager's house was built at a time when William Adam is known to have been working at Hopetoun House and it is possible that it was also designed by Adam.
The first occupant of the house was James Stirling of Keir who was appointed as manager and agent for the mining company in 1735. He had previously gained distinction as a mathematician and was an associate of Sir Isaac Newton. He had remarkable administrative ability in addition to his scientific and mathematical skills and transformed Leadhills into one of the most profitable industrial enterprises in Scotland. James Stirling is also a noted example of successful paternalism in the early industrial world, anticipating many of the practices of Robert Owen at New Lanark some years later.
The house became a shooting lodge in the 19th century and a private chapel was built on the north side of the site, of which only the foundations survive.
There are no detailed records regarding the layout of the gardens pre-1821, so knowledge of the original layout is uncertain. However, the present layout seems so correct for a house of this period and type that it would seem likely that the terracing and layout are contemporary with the house. The rubble walls are listed as being 18th-century so the outline can also be assumed to be contemporary with the house. The tree planting has changed and any formal planting has disappeared. However, the arrangement of paths and terraces would appear to be original.
There are descriptions of the gardens but these date to the 19th century when the manager was William Geddes Borron who lived there from 1830-60. Harriet Martineau in her Household Words, 1852, comments on Leadhills:
'At the very top of the settlement when we have passed all the cottages, and 'the H', and the potato patches, and the heaps of lead ore, we come to a place which takes all strangers by surprise: a charming house embowered with trees, with honeysuckle hanging about its walls, flowers in its parterres, and a respectable kitchen garden, where the boast is that currants can be induced to ripen, and that apples have been known to form, and to grow to a certain size, though not to ripen. This is the agent's house, and here are the offices of the Mining Company. The plantation is really wonderful, at such an elevation above the sea: and it is a refreshing sight to the stranger arriving from below. There may be seen, growing in a perfect thicket, beech, ash, mountain ash, elm, plane and larch, shading the grass plats, and enclosed walks so fresh and green that, on a hot day, one might fancy oneself in a meadow garden.'
In 1864 Irving and Murray's Upper Ward of Lanarkshire Described and Delineated notes that:
'The principal buildings are the Hall, to which the church is attached, and the houses and Offices of the Mining Company. One of these, the residence of the manager of the mines, from its size and convenience, may be termed a mansion. It is situated on an eminence overlooking the village, surrounded by a plantation of fine old trees, of a size seldom seen at such an elevation. Within this belt of wood are gardens, terraces and walks, laid out with great taste and forming a pleasant contrast to the bare scenery around.'
Patrick Neill of the Caledonian Horticultural Society observed in his book Scottish Gardens and Orchards, 1813, that the following species could be found in the policies of the mine manager's house:
'The tree which appears to thrive best at this elevation is the larch, and the few that have been planted, though a good many years later than the other trees, far exceed them in size. The beech, ash, maple, birch, elm and mountain-ash all grow tolerably well, though much slower than in lower situations. The Scots fir does not appear to answer . . .Of the smaller fruits, gooseberries, black, white and red currants and raspberries, all bear pretty good crops, but unless the season is early, they are so late of ripening that the flavour suffers materially.'
He also noted:
'We are in the use of raising the following flowers which succeed tolerably: pinks, sweet-William, pansies, auriculas, polyanthus, monkshood . . .'
It seems that a great variety of plants have been grown on this spot and with success, bearing in mind that it is c.1300 ft above sea level, and regarded as the highest garden in Scotland.
- Associated People
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- House (featured building)
- Description: This is a classical two-storey, three-bay house, built in 1736-40. Flanking pavilions with linking bays were added, 1736-37. A pair of parallel ranges flanks the courtyard to the west.
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- Kitchen Garden
- Garden Terrace
- Key Information
Domestic / Residential
Open to the public
- Related Documents
Designed Landscape Study - Hard Copy
Christopher Dingwall and Peter McGowan - 2006
- CLS 1/974